James Barnett's work was recently splashed across the collective gaming internet after he sent notice of his work to several sites. "Just astounding," Barnett said of the reaction from gaming fans around the world. "I knew I had some pretty OK paintings, and was happy with them. But I submitted them to the video game websites through the normal channels--the contact forms and the 'tips@___' email addresses--and received responses almost immediately. Yesterday, I emailed one site's tips email address and got up to get something to eat. Someone from the site called me before I could even finish making a sandwich."
Word has spread fast about Barnett's work, and for good reason. His impressions of these landscapes can transport frequent visitors directly into the game world, all without having to launch Team Fortress 2, or Half-Life 2. Barnett also painted a view within the fictional Liberty City from Grand Theft Auto IV, which is in turn an "artist's rendering" of New York City. An impression of an impression, if you will, still has a strong effect.
Barnett has been a long time gamer, "since [his] dad brought home an Atari 2600. [He's] been gaming a very very long time. It was just one of those things--love at first sight," but his painting has been a pickup hobby for a shorter period of time. "[I've been painting] since around 2001, when the internet bubble crashed. I started mostly to amuse myself! I'd taken a few art classes, but hadn't trained to be a painter," he said.
Barnett said he was interested in doing impressions of any 3D game, but that he lacked interest in painting "grim space marines or brown-gray hallways or elf kingdoms or hordes of zombies." It seems that Half-life 2's stark realism and Team Fortress 2's cartoon stylings captured Barnett's imagination in just the right way.
"I got a new video card a while back but after I'd started painting. The afternoon light in Call of Duty and Half-Life 2 just blew me away, and that's when I decided I'd paint from video games," Barnett said. He's also spent countless hours in Team Fortress 2.
"Well, I knew I was going to paint [TF2] almost immediately, since I'd had the idea for video game paintings a long time before and I look at each new game I play under that light. But I've put in well over 100 hours, with pyro, engineer, and spy being my top classes. It took a while to get the hang of playing spy, but 5 backstabs in a row make one feel like a magnificent jerk."
When asked about what work he was interested in doing in the future, Barnett said "Next round, I'd like to try some sci-fi-based game scenes, just for the goofiness of using a 100-year-old style to paint science fiction. And more portraits."
You can see more of Barnett's work at his site http://jamesbarnett.net/.